News Column

Best Schools 2011: Rising Expectations

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Except for occasional bumps up and down, Hispanics have made steady though slow advancements over the past five years at the nation's top postgraduate schools specializing in business, engineering, law and medicine.

Overall, Hispanics pursuing their postgraduate degrees at these schools averaged 13.5 percent over the past five years, increasing from 10.9 percent in 2007 to 15.8 percent this year. Those receiving degrees averaged 10.8 percent in the same time period, from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 13.8 percent today. At the same time, the percentage of faculty members at these schools who are Hispanic also increased from 6.7 percent in 2007 to 8.9 percent today, an average of 8.1 percent per year.

Each year, HispanicBusiness magazine measures and ranks the effectiveness of the nation's universities in attracting Hispanic students. To understand the effect of these schools on Hispanics, HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business Inc., assesses the nation's top universities for Hispanics in the fields of business, engineering, business and law.

The 40 universities ranked -- 10 in each degree area -- were ranked in terms of Hispanic diversity according to the following criteria:
-- Percent of Hispanic student enrollment.
-- Percent of Hispanic faculty members.
-- Percent of degrees conferred to Hispanics.
-- Progressive programs aimed at increasing enrollment of Hispanic students.

Yet, despite the progress, Hispanics still lag behind the general population in degrees conferred. To increase the number of Hispanics who go on to seek postgraduate degrees means a concerted effort to increase the number of Hispanics in the pipeline.

Education Gaps

A July report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) noted that 63 percent of jobs will require a postsecondary degree by 2018.

The author of the report, Michelle Camacho Liu, who tracks postsecondary issues for the NCSL, wrote: "For the United States to have the highest percentage of college graduates, 13.4 million more adults need to earn degrees by 2020. To reach this goal, almost a quarter of these additional degrees (3.3 million) need to be earned by Latino students."

Only 19 percent of Hispanic adults have a postsecondary degree, according to the NCLS study, compared to 42 percent of whites and 26 percent of African-American adults. This gap is particularly noticeable in states that have sizable Hispanic populations.

The largest gap occurs in California, where only 15.5 percent of Hispanics have a higher degree compared to 50 percent for whites. The percentage of Hispanics with higher degrees in Nevada, 11.4 percent; Arizona, 15.8 percent; Texas, 16.2 percent; Illinois, 16.5 percent; and Colorado, 17.4 percent, come in significantly lower than the national average. Florida has one of the highest rates of Hispanics with higher degrees, 32 percent, but that is still lower than the 41 percent for white adults.

Deborah Santiago, co-founder of Excelencia in Education, wrote in an August news release: "The data is compelling; the relative youth, growth and current levels of educational attainment among Latinos show that our nation will not return to world leadership in college completion without a tactical plan focused on increasing Latino degree attainment." Increasing the number of Hispanics earning higher degrees needs to be a top priority.

University Snapshot

Forty colleges make up the Best Schools for Hispanics in the four postgraduate course categories. Geographically, Florida leads the way with eight universities, Texas comes second with seven and California comes next with five. Eight states are represented with one university on the list. Several universities, such as the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of New Mexico were on more than one list.

For the fourth year in a row, the Georgia Institute of Technology has ranked No. 1 for its diversity efforts in relation to Hispanic students seeking degrees from the institute's College of Engineering. One other university also repeats at the top of the rankings. The University of Texas at El Paso has ranked No. 1 in the business school category for two years.

New to the No. 1 rankings is the University of Texas at Austin's School of Law and the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

After a four-year absence, Yale University's School of Management returns to the best business schools list at No. 9, and the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business makes its debut at No. 6 on the list.

There is only one new entry this year on the best engineering school list, Cal Poly Pomona. There were no new entries on the best law and medical schools lists.

By the Numbers

Hispanics make up the largest percentage of students, 26.3 percent, seeking a master of business administration degree, up from 13.6 percent five years ago. Hispanics attend law and medical schools at about the same rate, 15.6 for the former and 15.5 percent for the latter, up respectively from 13.5 percent and 14.6 percent five years ago.

While Hispanic enrollment at engineering schools has increased over five years, from 7 percent in 2007 to 8.5 percent today, it is the weakest of the four postgraduate categories. The fact that Hispanics only make up 8.5 percent of students pursuing a postgraduate degree in engineering and make up only 8.2 percent of those who receive an advanced degree in engineering underscores an assessment that Hispanics are underrepresented in careers that are among the fastest growing in the United States -- science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. A March 2010 report from the Center for Urban Education said that the National Science Board indicated that jobs in science and engineering are expected to grow 26 percent by 2014, compared to a 13 percent growth in all other occupations.

A National Science Foundation (NSF) study found that Hispanics earned 7.7 percent of bachelor's, 4.7 percent of master's and 2.9 percent of doctoral degrees in science and engineering in 2006. By 2008, the NSF found, Hispanics represented only 4 percent of the science and engineering workforce, proportions way below that of Hispanics in the general population.

In terms of graduation, the rates of Hispanics gaining their degrees roughly parallels enrollment. Overall, an average of 10.8 percent of Hispanics per year earns degrees in one of the four course categories HispanTelligence tracks. This year, 13.8 percent of total degrees conferred went to Hispanics, up from 8.6 percent in 2007.

Again, business had the highest percentage of degrees conferred. Hispanics earned 22.9 percent of the MBA's conferred, up a whopping 6 percent since 2007. Hispanics were granted degrees in law and medicine at a fairly consistent rate -- 13.1 percent earned J.D. degrees, slightly less than the 13.8 percent awarded in 2007; 15.4 percent earned M.D. degrees, up from 10.5 percent in 2007.

Hispanics earned 8.2 percent of the engineering degrees conferred, up from 6.2 percent in 2007, again reflecting an underrepresentation in this area considered one of the best for job growth.

The Instructors

Diversity at the graduate level is not merely about the number of Hispanics enrolled or earning degrees, it also is about inclusion of Hispanics in the teaching ranks. That, too, has shown a steady increase since 2007, when only 6.7 percent of professors in business, engineering, law and medicine were Hispanic. Today, 8.9 percent are.

Law colleges have the highest percent of Hispanic professors, 11.6 percent, up from 8.2 percent in 2007. Medical schools come next with 9.4 percent of the teaching staff Hispanic, up from 7.1 percent in 2007, followed by business schools with 9.1 percent, up from 6.4 in 2007, and engineering with 5.1 percent, up from 4.4 percent in 2007.

Like student enrollment, the percentage of Hispanic faculty in engineering schools lags. In fact, it is considerably less that the percent of enrolled Hispanics -- 5.1 percent, up only 0.7 percentage points from 2007.

Bridging the Gap

These are positive trends in diversity for the HispanicBusiness Best Schools, but in many cases, the percentage of Hispanics enrolled, receiving degrees or part of the faculty is well below the percentage of Hispanics in the general population. Efforts are under way on a number of fronts to increase the participation of Hispanics in higher education.

Programs such as the University of Texas at Austin's diversity fellowships for incoming students help offset the cost of postgraduate education. The program offers a $16,000, nine-month stipend, with health insurance assistance (currently $1,100) and tuition assistance (currently $3,784 per long semester.) About 100 of these fellowships are awarded annually. But several efforts are aimed at filling the pipeline of Hispanic students so a steady flow takes advantage of higher education.

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, in a June report titled "The Educational Experiences of Young Men of Color" offered several suggestions to help increase the number of students, including increasing community, business and school partnerships to provide mentoring and support to young men of color, and education reform to ensure all students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school.

The NCSL in a July report, "Investing in Higher Education for Latinos," suggested providing options for students to receive career and workforce training as part of their high school and college experience, fully leverage federal funding that awards grants to institutions for student support, and simplify transfer between colleges and universities.

In March 2010, the Center for Urban Education offered several policy recommendations to improve transfer access to STEM bachelor's degrees at Hispanic-serving institutions. These include having the National Science Foundation provide incentives for colleges and universities to improve transfer pathways to bachelor's degrees in biological, agricultural, and environmental sciences and engineering; identifying points of intervention in the STEM curriculum at which students can be increased; and funding for faculty involvement in curricular innovation and collaboration among four-year and two-year college professors.

In short, the opportunities for Hispanics to gain advanced degrees in business, engineering, law and medicine are increasing, but to keep pace with the needs of the workforce, more needs to be done to prime the pipeline, to help Hispanics be ready for college after high school and graduate school after college; and to provide the needed resources to see them through graduate school.